Cold & Flu Activity

Are colds and flu on the rise near you? Check the activity in your area

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on May 10, 2012

Sources

CDC; National Institutes of Health

© 2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Video Transcript

Narrator: The truth is common influenza, the run of the mill flu, is a serious health concern.

Isadore Rosenfeld, MD: The flu vaccine prevents a viral infection that hospitalizes 200 thousand people in this country every year and kills 36 thousand. We now know that everybody really should get the flu vaccine, that is if they are not allergic to eggs or chicken protein…

Narrator: Those allergies are important because eggs are used to cultivate the inoculants. Health officials span the globe collecting influenza samples in order to determine which strains will likely be most prevalent and most dangerous. Drug manufacturers then produce the vaccine in eggs using three of the most menacing strains; but forecasting which viruses will thrive in a given season can be tricky.

Jeanne Santoli, MD: The vaccines' effectiveness is linked to how good the match is between the vaccine and the diseases that are circulating.

Narrator: So if they don't quite hit the mark is it even worth getting vaccinated? The answer is yes.

Jeanne Santoli, MD: You may be protected at least against the strains that are in the vaccine even if you're not protected against all of the strains that are in the circulation that season.

: ONE, TWO, THREE, BIG OWIE…

Narrator: Some parents are concerned that vaccines containing the preservative, Thimerisal, a mercury-based compound, might be a reason for the rise in autism in the U.S.

Jeanne Santoli, MD: There really haven't been good quality, convincing studies that have demonstrated a link between thimarisol and some of the developmental outcomes such as autism…

Narrator: Thimarisol-free flu vaccines are now the standard for children in this country and even avaliable to adults for the asking to the relief of many health care providers

Isadore Rosenfeld, MD: I was very concerned because the attitudes toward Autism fueled by the grief of the parents of the children who have it has resulted in many children not been given the vaccine.

Narrator: One of the most widely-held myths about the flu shot is that it causes the flu:

Jeanne Santoli, MD: I can say with great confidence that influenza vaccination absolutely does not cause influenza.

Narrator: Some believe the vaccine weakens the immune system by over-protecting it. Also not true:

Jeanne Santoli, MD: Well there are so many pathogens all the time, you needn't worry your immune system's getting a workout every single day.

Narrator: Though healthcare providers encourage people to get vaccinated by the Thanksgiving Holiday, there's still a point to getting the shot anytime before flu season ends.

Jeanne Santoli, MD: The disease often peaks in february or later….Which means there is time for protection even if Thanksgiving come and gone and you haven't gotten your flu shot.

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.